By Josh Mitchell/Corinth Today
I recently visited Atlanta and saw a number of people who appeared to be homeless.
This is not a problem unique to Atlanta, obviously.
But seeing people camped under bridges and walking the streets asking for money struck a chord with me.
In fact, I was encountered by several people asking for money near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta.
It was ironic that I would see such utter poverty near a center that advocated affordable housing, a living wage, employment, compassion and community.
Poverty is not only a problem in big cities such as Atlanta. It is also a problem right here in Corinth and Alcorn County. A 2015 Census Bureau survey found that 21 percent of Alcorn County residents were below the poverty level.
An estimated 38 percent of African Americans in Alcorn County were below the poverty level compared to 18 percent of whites.
Thirty-seven percent of families without a husband present were below the poverty level in Alcorn County versus only 9.3 percent for married couples.
Obtaining higher education seems to drive down the number of people in poverty. It is clear that some people are born into poverty. My late grandmother used to say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” That means that it could have been herself who was homeless as opposed to the stranger on the street.
President Donald Trump said during his campaign that the Democratic party has run the country’s inner cities for 50 years and only produced “poverty, joblessness, failing schools, and broken homes.” In one campaign speech, Trump asked African-American communities, “Look, what do you have to lose? You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed.”
It is clear that poverty crosses racial boundaries. In addition to visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, I also went to the boyhood home of Erskine Caldwell, who wrote about extremely poor white people in Georgia during the Great Depression in his novel “Tobacco Road.”
I also saw poverty from a different perspective when I visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention museum in Atlanta. There was an exhibit on the Ebola virus that killed thousands of people a few years back. The exhibit included photos of impoverished countries in West Africa. It also showed the massive international response to help the people.
I think people in Alcorn County and other places around the world truly want to help people in poverty.
But when confronted by a homeless person it can be hard to decide whether to give them money. Some may think that the money would just go to drugs or alcohol. A person I know has a philosophy on that dilemma. He says he gives them money, and it is their problem if they use it for substances. But at least he tried to help them.
It can also make a difference in terms of the condition of the people asking for money. For instance, while I was in Atlanta I saw one man who appeared to be in good physical shape asking for money. But that was his physical appearance. He may have had other mental issues that prevented him from working or getting back on his feet. I also saw other people who clearly seemed to have mental and physical problems asking for money. Some people may be more inclined to give them money.
Poverty is nothing new, but the hope is that it’s getting better in Alcorn County and around the world.